Experts urge parent-child talks

A lack of communication about sex between parents and their children can contribute to high teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease rates, those at a Saturday sexual abstinence event were told.

"Kids are curious about what they don't know, so they are willing to listen when you talk about it," said Mary Stacy, a youth development coordinator for the Richmond County Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Coalition, Inc. "Parents should use that as encouragement to talk to their kids about sexuality and STDs. They are the primary educator. If they aren't talking to their kids about it, everyone else is."

Ms. Stacy spoke to more than 200 parents and youths at the 14th annual Sexual Abstinence Event at Butler High School. Ms. Stacy's coalition and the East Central Public Health District 6 played host to the event.

As information on preventing teen pregnancies, peer pressure and sexually transmitted diseases was presented to the youths, parents participated in a session on how to be approachable.

"Make yourself approachable. Don't lecture by saying 'Don't do this' or 'You better not do that,' " said Kristin Wright-Bishop, a speaker during the parent session. "You want to explain why you don't want them to do certain things."

Christine Lucas, of Augusta, has been talking to her 11-year-old daughter since she was 4 about her body and sexuality. She said she knows that's not always the case with her daughter's peers.

"A lot of parents aren't comfortable talking to their kids about sex, especially when they are young, because they feel that it's making them grow up too fast or that it's encouraging them to do it, but it's not," she said. "It's just teaching them the consequences of having sex at a young age."

There is another reason some parents avoid talking about sex, said parent Carnita Kelly-Seymore, of Martinez.

"Some parents are naive and feel that they don't have to talk to their children about sex because they don't think that their kids are exposed to it, when all of our children are exposed to the messages at some point," she said. "Parents have to talk about it. I think that initiating the talk could be one of the most important things we can all do as parents."

The event is held to kick off Teen Pregnancy Month in May.

Reach Nikasha Dicks at (706) 823-3336 or nikasha.dicks@augustachronicle.com.

TEEN STATISTICS

- Three in 10 teenage girls will become pregnant by age 20.

- One in four teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease

- Georgia ranks 42nd in the nation in the teen pregnancy rate (with eight states having higher rates) and 48th in the nation in repeat teen pregnancies (with two states having higher rates).

Source: Richmond County Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Coalition Inc.

PREGNANCY RATE

Numbers are per 1,000 girls ages 15-19

Georgia67.0
Burke County123.1
Columbia County37.7
McDuffie County109.0
Richmond County84.8

REPEAT PREGNANCIES

The number of pregnancies that are not first pregnancies per 100 pregnancies for girls ages 15-19.

Georgia28.5 pct.
Burke County38.1 pct.
Columbia County20.9 pct.
McDuffie County26.7 pct.
Richmond County27.3 pct.

Source: 2005 Statistics Georgia Division of Public Health's Online Analytical Statistical Information System